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ALL Photos on this website

are SageKeep Dogs bred or owned by Esther Wilson

unless otherwise specified.

Beware of Bernese Mtn Dog Breeder websites that steal photos of Berners from other breeders and then display those photos to falsely portray their kennel.


Many graphics used courtesy of Classique Graphics by Dawn Gabig















































The Vaccine Dilemma

Part 1

Authored by Esther Wilson of SageKeep Kennels

using various research sources.


How do Vaccines work and when should we give them?


"A vaccine is a biological preparation

which is used to establish or improve immunity to a particular disease"


Note: My dissertation about vaccines here is NOT a political statement for or against vaccines.


I believe a carefully moderated, informed vaccine schedule is a rational choice by responsible pet owners. However, vaccines are also a known culprit of many life threatening problems. This makes the vaccine choice a very serious two-edged sword that can bring help AND harm.


My purpose here is to offer some education about the need for vaccines, vaccine manufacture process and implementation as well as inform about some of the possible negative/positive results from vaccination.


Decision to vaccinate and/or the decision to not vaccinate both have one (1) important factor in common: they both have the potential to be good or bad decisions for your pet. Both choices can have negative repercussions. Both choices are risky.


Intelligent, responsible pet owners should become educated about vaccines and make wise decisions for their pets' safety.


Don't just trust your Vet, who may make a bad decision for your pet.


Take personal responsibility for your pet's best interest on all health matters, including vaccinations, by becoming educated. Hopefully, that's why you're here.




We'll start at the beginning of a pup's life in order to help you get the whole picture.


An adult dog has acquired (or not) certain immunities to various diseases based largely on two things: (1) the dog has been vaccinated for the disease(s) and/or (2) the dog has been exposed to the diseases and survived.


Some species gain immunities from the mother's immune system while growing inside the mother's uterus. This is not true with dogs/puppies.


When a puppy is newly born, it basically has no immunities to several very common, very deadly diseases.


A mother that has freshly whelped her puppies should produce "mother's first milk", also called "colostrum" for about the first 24 hours after whelp. After about the first 24 hours, the mother's body will stop producing colostrum and will continue to produce simply "mother's milk".


Also, the lining of a freshly born puppy's digestive tract (intestinal wall) is such that it will accept immunities into it's bloodstream from it's mother's first milk. Within about 24 to 36 hours, the lining of the newborn puppy's digestive tract changes and it will gradually stop absorbing immunities from it's mother's milk. So it is vitally important that a newborn puppy nurse from it's mother as much as possible within the first 24 to 48 hours before the window closes on the pup's ability to absorb immunities from it's mother's milk.


After the newborn pup's window of 24 to 36 hours is closed, it does not matter how much the pup nurses on the mother - the pup's body will not accept any further immunities from it's mother, even though the pup's body will continue to require mother's milk for all other aspects of survival.


Also, it's possible that the mother's body may quit producing "colostrum" in her milk while her puppies are still able to absorb immunities. So the mother's window of time to provide colostrum may be shorter than the puppy's ability to absorb.


If the puppy has not nursed on its mother's milk within the first 24 to 36 hours, it is likely that puppy has little to no immunities unless it was supplemented with a nutrition source that could offer such (and I know of no other sources but my knowledge is limited- bovine colostrum will simply not have the necessary immunities to infectious canine diseases like Parvo or Distemper).


IMPORTANT: The puppy can only receive those immunities that it's mother has to offer. For instance, if the mother has acquired no immunity to Parvo, then the puppy cannot receive any immunity to Parvo from it's mother (because she has none to give). At the same time, if this same mother has immunity to Distemper, the puppy should gain some immunity to Distemper (because she had immunity to Distemper even though she didn't have any immunity to Parvo to offer). So, a mother can only pass on those antibodies to her pups that she already has in her system.


The immunities that a puppy absorbs within the first 24-36 hours from it's mother's milk are called "Passive Immunity". This is because the immunities are not actually part of the puppy's own immune system. Rather, these are immunities borrowed from the mother that act as a defense system independent of the pup's own immune system.


The immunities "borrowed" from the mother in the first 24-36 hours of nursing do NOT stimulate the pup's system to create immunity. The borrowed immunities are indeed that, "borrowed" only and will wane in the weeks following birth.


An important factor called "The Window of Susceptibility" begins to open when the immunities borrowed from the mother begin to wane in the pup's bloodstream. Once the borrowed immunities have waned, the pup is vulnerable to those diseases that it had previously been immune to because of the maternal antibodies. This waning of borrowed immunities is a process that happens over the course of the weeks following the puppy's birth. The level of protection will "wane" or decline as the pup matures and is an individual process with each pup. In other words, the waning process of these borrowed immunities is unique to each pup.


This means that the Timing for the Window of Susceptibility is different for each puppy and each litter. It depends on many factors like: what immunities did the mother have to offer, how strong were those immunities that the mother had to offer, how much of these immunities did the puppy assimilate, how quick is the waning process in that particular pup, etc.


It's thought that the Window of Susceptibility may begin when the average puppy is somewhere between the ages of about 4 to 8 weeks - understanding that each puppy is different. The crux of the problem is that there is no real way to know when this Window has seriously opened for a particular puppy to leave it vulnerable (at what level the borrowed immunities have waned at a given age of the puppy). The borrowed immunities in one puppy may have fully waned about age 7 weeks while it's littermate may retain the borrowed immunities on a stronger level until, say, age 8 weeks.


There is a helpful resource called a "Titre" (pronounced 'tighter'). A Vet can draw the pup's blood and have it analyzed to see what immunities are present. Many good breeders will have a titre run on their bitch prior to breeding her, to help them understand her levels of immunities against the various diseases. A Titre on the bitch (prior to breeding) can be a good indicator of what immunities the bitch will have to offer her newborn pups. The problem is that a titre is not absolute fact. It's a really good guess, but it could present wrong information. So it is important to understand that a blood titre is not totally reliable but should produce a good guess-timate to work from.


Again, the immunities derived from mother's first milk in the first 24-36 hours of life are not part of the pup's own immune system, these borrowed immunities will not stimulate the pup's own immune system at all and these borrowed immunities will wane as the pup matures and should be fully waned when the pup is aged between about 6 to 8 weeks.


Again, the mother can only lend those immunities she has. A puppy cannot get passive immunities from its mother if she doesn't have those immunities to give.


The purpose of vaccinating a puppy is to stimulate the puppy's own immune system to mount an immune response against a disease(s). This is called "Active Immunity".


The timing of puppy vaccination is very critical. You want to vaccinate the puppy as soon as it is vulnerable to disease(s) but you must vaccinate after the decline of the borrowed mother's immunities is at a level where the vaccine can "pass through" the maternal antibodies to accomplish an active immune response


If a puppy is vaccinated during the time when it's borrowed immunities are still strong enough to fend off the disease(s) that the vaccination is against, then those borrowed immunities will destroy the vaccination's worth to that pup's independent immune system and no "active immunity" is created. Basically, the borrowed immunities from the mother will defend the puppy even against the vaccine - if those borrowed immunities happen to be at a sufficiently strong enough level when the vaccine is given. This situation would render that vaccination completely worthless. The problem here is that you may believe the puppy is vaccinated, and therefore is developing it's own body's immune response, when the fact is that the borrowed immunities have nullified the vaccine's intent - leaving the puppy defenseless as the borrowed immunities wane.


In this situation, you won't know that your puppy is, in fact, completely vulnerable to those diseases that you vaccinated it for. (See also "high titre/low passage vaccine" discussion below). So even though you've vaccinated your puppy, this doesn't mean the vaccine "worked" to stimulate the puppy's immune system to mount active immunity.


The fact that the first puppy vaccine may not yield the desired result is the purpose of the second puppy vaccine scheduled about 3 weeks after the first puppy vaccine. This second vaccine schedule takes into account the possibility that the first vaccine could have been rendered useless by the borrowed immunities by the mother AND that those borrowed immunities should have fully waned by two weeks later.


Most of the time, the second scheduled puppy vaccine should work to stimulate the pup's immune system effectively and create active immunity, even if the first vaccine had been defeated by the borrowed immunities.


Another reason for the second puppy vaccine is that, perhaps the first puppy vaccine did provoke an immune response but that response is not strong enough to readily defend the pup against the disease(s). Most veterinary researchers believe that the second puppy vaccine could be sufficient for a reliable active immunity.


However, because there is the significant potential that the second vaccine was also defeated by the borrowed immunities AND there is also potential that the second vaccine did not stimulate enough of an immune response for the puppy to be fully protected, Veterinary professionals recommend a third puppy vaccine to be given 6 weeks after the first vaccine, which is 3 weeks after the second vaccine.


Typical age of vaccination:


           7 or 8 weeks: first vaccination


         10 or 11 weeks: second vaccination


          13 or 14 weeks: third vaccination


Some Vets prefer the old stand-by vaccine schedule which calls for the last vaccine to be given when the pup is aged 16 weeks.


Again, the timing of these vaccinations can be a critical component to get your puppy immunized against deadly diseases like Parvo, Distemper and Hepatitis.


Follow a good vaccination schedule for your puppy - especially don't delay the second vaccine!! and remember that the third vaccine could make a big difference, too.






When you give a vaccine to your puppy, you are injecting the actual disease(s) into your puppy's body.


Basically, vaccines are manufactured by using the live disease organism.


Monovalent vaccine is a solitary vaccine that innoculates against just one (1) disease. Rabies is a good example of a typical monovalent vaccine. Multivalent vaccines have innoculation against several diseases combined in one vaccine. DAP is one good example of this (Distemper, Adenovirus and Parvovirus). Sometimes, it is best to use monovalent vaccine so that you do not overload the dog's immune system. Sometimes, as with initial puppy vaccines, it may be best to use the multivalent vaccines so you get coverage against an important array of diseases. If you need to vaccinate against several diseases, as with a puppy, it's best to do them all in one vaccine because giving separate vaccines a few days apart may not achieve the desired result. For instance, if you vaccinate for Parvo first, then a few days later vaccinate for Distemper, the dog's immune system may not respond at all to the Distemper vaccine because it is responding in full force to the Parvo vaccine. For premium efficacy, give the various vaccines together - or separate them by a month or two apart, minimum. In young puppies, it's probably more important to get them immunized as fully as possible - conservatively as possible.


Vaccines are traditionally introduced into the body by one of two methods: injection (syringe & needle) or intranasal (through the nose). Most vaccines are submitted by injection, usually Sub-Q (under the skin, not in the muscle, for slower impact).


I've personally witnessed that many intranasal vaccines cause problems with the dog's nose/nasal passage (allergic response) that can leave permanent damage to the dog's nose and nasal passages. I know of a specific Berner who had been given Bordetella vaccine intranasal for 5 years, always resulting in a worsening ravaged nose and nasal passage, and his Vet swore that the Bordetella vaccine had nothing to do with the ugly, chronic nasal problem (but never offered an alternate culprit). This Berner was ultimately surrendered back to his breeder, who employed various healing agents and got the nose and nasal passage completely healed - and who never gave the dog another intranasal (or any) vaccine. The dog's nose remains well.


Also, it is well documented that vaccine injection sites can and may produce cancer at that site. I've had this happen to several of my dogs over the years and this is a VERY common occurrence.




Traditional modified live vaccines are made by weakening (attenuate) a particular disease organism (virus, bacteria, fungus, etc). The goal is to capture alive but weakened portions of the disease that should be harmless and use them to create a vaccine against the disease.


An adjuvant (also called "carrier") must be partnered with the attenuated disease organism within the vaccine in order to create the desired immune response. The adjuvant basically irritates the immune system and thereby stimulates it to find its partner disease organism that is also contained in the vaccine.


The problem with adjuvants (carriers) is that they are believed to be a very problematic part of the vaccine: potentially carcinogenic (cancer causing) and prone to spark allergy response.


A modified live vaccine has the best potential for stimulating an immune response because it is alive, a living disease organism and therefore the pup's body should mount a stronger defense against a "live" threat.


Typical vaccines that use the "modified live" method are for diseases like:

Parvo, Distemper, Hepatitis (AdenoVirius 1 & 2), Parainfluenza, etc.




This is a type of modified live vaccine that has a "high particle" content that are attenuated (low passage). This can be a better choice for very young puppies because it offers a better chance at getting past (breaks through) maternal antibodies. This is especially true of "high titre parvovirus vaccines. I will use only high titre/low passage modified live vaccines on my young puppies because these vaccines offer the best potential to stimulate the desired immune response.




Some diseases are so virulent that it is a bad idea to use a "modified live" method for vaccine manufacture. For these diseases, the actual disease organism is killed and then the vaccine is made from that disease.


Just like a modified live vaccine, killed vaccines require an adjuvant ("carrier") to stimulate the immune system to find the disease and respond to it.


A typical vaccine that uses "Killed" method is for Rabies.


One HUGE problem with killed disease vaccines (and also modified live vaccines) is that, in a given batch of vaccines, the disease was not fully controlled (not fully "killed") in that batch's manufacture process. Yes, this faulty manufacture will create a HUGE problem that will require recalls of that batch of vaccines.


Fort Dodge, a drug company that makes vaccines, is infamous for poor quality vaccine manufacture process that has created batches of compromised vaccines. They have recalled various of their vaccines because the poorly manufactured vaccine actually created the disease in the dogs it was given to. I personally know of a few dogs who acquired rabies directly from a faulty rabies vaccine made by Fort Dodge - and the Vets who gave the rabies vaccine were completely unaware of the vaccine's batch recall.




Recombinant vaccines are created by using yeast or bacteria to produce large quantities of a single viral or bacterial protein. This protein is purified and made part of a vaccine. The theory is that, after injection, this protein stimulates the puppy's immune system to make antibodies against the disease's protein and this should protect the puppy from acquiring the disease.


The primary benefit of the recombinant vaccine is safety: the agent is a protein of the disease rather than the actual disease organism and, therefore, this sort of vaccine should have virtually no ability to create the disease upon vaccination (unlike modified live or killed vaccines, which employ the actual disease organism and can cause the full-blown disease after vaccination).


A secondary and very important benefit is that the recombinant vaccine does not require a adjuvant (carrier). So this helps eliminate a significant portion of the cancer factor inherent in traditional vaccines as well as lowering the risk of allergic reaction upon vaccination.


At the time I wrote this webpage, the only Recombinant vaccine that I could find in production for dogs is for Distemper. The name is Recombitek by Merial. I used this vaccine on my litter of puppies in September 2007 when the puppies were 7 weeks old. Out of 12 puppies in this litter, 8 puppies had swollen faces in allergic reaction. Low dose of Benadryl for each pup saved the day. However, as they've matured, these puppies have gone on to display a perpetually, very mildly swollen third eyelid(s) - even as they approach adulthood. Various veterinary ophthalmologists who have examined these (older) puppies have found no significant abnormality worthy of note and the pups' eyes to be "Normal". I personally believe the Recombitek vaccine created this third eyelid issue as I have only ever seen it happen otherwise to Berners in response to a Rabies vaccine. I will not use Recombitek vaccine again anytime soon. I have never had this third eyelid issue result in puppies who were given my standard Proguard-5 by Intervet.






If you don't vaccinate your Berner, then s/he is vulnerable to those diseases that typically strike dogs and many of these diseases are potentially or fully fatal. CERTAINLY the diseases are dreadful for your dog to endure and they are CERTAINLY expensive for you to pay for.


I know of Berner breeders who didn't vaccinate (because of the problems that vaccines can create) and their Berners died from the diseases that vaccination could've prevented. Very sad. I know of very few Berners who've never been vaccinated and never got the diseases that vaccines exist to prevent. (I strongly suggest you intelligently, conservatively vaccinate your Berner).


If you vaccinate your Berner, then s/he is vulnerable to complications that can arise from vaccination. Some complications are more dangerous than others. Some are life threatening, potentially fatal. I know of several Berners who've experienced lifelong complications from vaccines - and I also know of a few Berners who've died as a direct result of vaccines.


Either way, its a crap shoot.


My view is to use a vaccination protocol that is an informed best guess, that has the highest chances of good health for your Berner in as many regards as possible - understanding that your best guess could be right or wrong.


Relying on your Vet to choose a vaccination type and schedule is not only incredibly lazy, I feel it is one earmark of an irresponsible dog owner. It certainly leaves your dog vulnerable to someone who was taught about vaccines ONLY from the (prejudiced) vaccine manufacturer.


My vaccine protocol is to use as few vaccines as possible while achieving sufficient immune response AND to only use those vaccines that should have the best ability to stimulate immunity without causing other problems. In other words, I want the best of both worlds for my dog and this is the reason I got educated enough that I could even write this whole webpage to help you.


I've used Proguard 5 by Intervet for the past 7 years. I have only had excellent results to report. This is the vaccine recommended by Colorado State University, who performed the ONLY long-term study of vaccines on dogs.






The short answer is "NO", vaccines don't always work.


In puppies, the maternal antibodies may block the vaccine's work. Other situations can also prevent a vaccine from working as it should:

       the use of steriods

          the presence of fever and/or other diseases

          and other similar events.


Importantly, vaccines require careful handling, e.g., prompt and consistent cold storage at certain temperatures, etc. The usefulness (viability) of a vaccine can be compromised by lack of careful handling and you'd never know that the vaccine had been compromised until your dog acquired the disease for which it had been vaccinated.


Another reason a vaccine may not work has to do with a disease's evolution. For instance, when Parvo arrived on the scene in the 1960's, it arrived in a fairly innocuous form called "CPV-1" (Canine Parvovirus 1). A vaccine was never built for CPV-1 because veterinary professionals and vaccine manufacturers deemed it unnecessary to create one because the disease's symptoms were mild. However, in the 1970's, a variant of Parvovirus appeared and this was an incredibly virulent, often fatal virus. The name given to this Parvovirus is "CPV-2" (Canine Parvovirus 2). Because of the serious nature of it, a vaccine was quickly built to defend against CPV-2 strains. Until recent years, there were only 2 strains of the deadly CPV2. These are CPV-2(a) & CPV-2(b). These strains are in the vaccine for Parvo that you commonly find in the vaccine marketplace today.


However, beginning about year 2000 or so, a new strain Parvo emerged. Called CPV-2(c), it is a little more virulent than the former CPV-2 strains. The researchers believe this strain originated in Italy and the University of Oklahoma has verified this strain is now found (throughout) the USA.


The traditional vaccine for CPV-2 may help certain dogs defend against the new CPV-2(c) strain, but may offer no help whatsoever. Very recently, a vaccine has been introduced into the marketplace for CPV-2(c) and basically, my research says it's been incorportated with the other CPV-2 strains in may of the vaccines available in the marketplace.


So the evolution of a particular disease may supercede (survive) the existing vaccine.





I use only CORE vaccines. These are the vaccines that defend against the standard diseases: 







Parvovirus: If you think your puppy probably won't get Parvo if you don't vaccinate, I'd like to share the story of one Berner breeder who doesn't believe in traditional vaccines and has lost SEVERAL GORGEOUS SHOW DOGS to Parvo (ages from 3 months to 10 months). Also, I've nearly lost dogs to Parvo and my dogs were traditionally vaccinated! This disease can attack very young puppies and older puppies as old as 1 year or 18 months, even those dogs that have been traditionally vaccinated. Typically, older dogs are immune to Parvo but not always. The virus is NOT what kills the dog. As the virus runs its course through the young dog, it reduces the lining of the digestive tract to complete ruination. This creates internal bleeds and serious, often fatal secondary infections. The virus doesn't kill the puppy. The secondary infections that result from the virus are what kills the puppy. Parvo puppies have a distinct smell / odor, especially their vomit and their diarrhea. Once you smell it, you'll never forget it. The key to your pup's survival over Parvo is quick response with IV fluids and antibiotics to kill the secondary infections. Currently, there only one vaccine available for Parvo and that is for Canine Parovirus 2 (CPV-2). There is a new and incredibly dreadful strain called CPV-2(c) for which we only recently can purchase a vaccine against.


Parvovirus (CPV-2) can be cured, but the survival rate isn't very high. Much depends on how quickly medical intervention happens and on the age and general health of the dog. The survival rate is even lower for the new strain of Parvo. A quality CPV-2 vaccine is your best bet in helping to defend your puppy against Parvo.


Want to learn more about dealing with Parvo? Go here: http://www.ambertech.com/


Canine Distemper Virus: Canine distemper is a highly contagious, incurable, often fatal, multisystemic viral disease that affects the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and central nervous systems. Not long ago, Distemper was the leading cause of death in un-immunized puppies. Older dogs can get distemper, so it's not limited to puppies. Focus on this term: Distemper is INCURABLE - unable to be cured. Here's a great source to learn more about Canine Distemper: http://www.animalhealthchannel.com/distemper/index.shtml


Canine Adenovirus: There are two types of Canine Adenovirus. One type is CAV-1, which is a type of Canine Hepatitis (also called "Canine Infectious Hepatitis). The second is CAV-2 (also called "tracheobronchitis" or a type of kennel cough (not bordetella)), which causes respiratory and enteric infections. The two viruses are very similar and vaccination typically offers a crossover type of protection. Canine Hepatitis is primarily a disease of the liver, although it involves other body organs as well. The most vulnerable dogs to Canine Adenovirus are unvaccinated young dogs that are less than about 1 year old, although older dogs that have not been vaccinated are also at risk. Canine Adenovirus can easily be a fatal disease in any dog, especially the young.


To read more about CAV-1 & CAV-2, go here:




Rabies: Rabies is 100% fatal in dogs. Also very importantly, Rabies is a zoonotic disease. This means humans can get it from dogs (and other mammals). And that means that human society will NOT tolerate the risk of non-vaccinated dogs (cats, etc). This is the reason our laws are so strict about Rabies vaccination in our pets. Having said that, the Rabies vaccine is incredibly potent and also potentially fatal to our dogs (and cats). It's my view that the Rabies vaccine is the most problematic of all CORE vaccines and it solicits the highest percentage of negative allergy reaction of any single vaccine. I personally know of many - M A N Y - dogs that have died from Rabies vaccine. This vaccine is truly a very sharp, two edged sword that doesn't offer an easy path with either choice. It has been scientifically proven by studies that our current nationally accepted protocol for rabies vaccination in dogs and cats is far more than what is needed. There is a movement to have the rabies vaccination schedule reduced and I wish this movement great success. The rabies vaccine is a horrid atomic bomb to the dog's body and our laws mandate that we use this fertile atomic bomb on our dog many times during it's lifetime.


Colorado State University advises to use this Rabies Vaccine: Imrab®3 by Rhone Merieux. Again, CSU has performed the only long term study that exists on vaccines in dogs.


Here are some sources to read more about Rabies vaccine in dogs:









BORDETELLA: "Kennel Cough" is the result of one or more of several respiratory diseases that are highly contagious. Bordetella is just one of the infectious respiratory diseases that a dog can get. The Bordetella vaccine does NOT immunize the dog against all forms of Kennel Cough -  just against one specific strain of Kennel Cough.  The most common versions of Kennel Cough (source being Bordetella, or Parainfluenza, or Mycoplasma, or whatever) will have mild to moderate symptoms and require little intervention. Like any virus, Kennel Cough will run its course and the dog must endure the symptoms, such as they are, until the course is finished. There are few comforts that we can offer a dog with mild symptoms of Kennel Cough. It is critical to keep an infected dog away from other dogs until the dog is no longer infectious. While this disease is typically not fatal, sometimes this disease can get serious and require the intervention of veterinary medical helps like antibiotics, cough suppressants, IV Fluids, etc. The best prevention is to not allow your dog to be exposed to Kennel Cough. I personally know of Berners who had serious allergy reaction to the intranasal vaccine for Bordella. If you must give this vaccine, don't use the intranasal version AND be aware that all versions of this vaccine can be problematic with allergy response by your Berner. I rarely use this vaccine on my Berners.



CORONAVIRUS: At worst, this is a mild canine disease that is all but eradicated in our society today. While puppies less than about 6 weeks old may be vulnerable, its still a very rare disease. There are no documented long term effects from this disease.  Oftentimes, Vets may misdiagnose a dog citing this disease, because this particular disease is incredibly tough to accurately diagnose. Vomiting and diarrhea are the common symptoms (and these fade within a week or so), which are also symptoms very common to other illnesses. The vaccine is fairly worthless and most always unnecessary, especially in dogs over 6 weeks old. Learn more about this disease here:




Importantly, Bernese Mountain Dogs have been known to have adverse reactions to the vaccine for Leptospirosis (Lepto), which is a usual part of a 6-way or 7-way vaccine. One adverse reaction is potentially fatal, severe allergy response within a few hours (or minutes) after vaccination. The specific allergen is thought to be the carrier (adjuvant) used in creating this vaccine. In my own research, I know of no Bernese Mountain Dog that has aquired Asceptic Menengitis that did not also have a Lepto vaccination. Lastly, there is a new paper published in a traditionally peer-review format by a PHD researcher at Texas A & M who has proven that the Lepto vaccine can cause orthopedic development problems in Bernese Mountain Dogs. These three serious problems are the reason I don't give this vaccine to my Berners and I strongly advocate withholding this vaccine from Berner puppies born in my kennel.


There are several versions of Lepto, none of which are commonly fatal (but can be) and none of which are all covered in one (1) vaccine. In fact, very few strains of Lepto are covered in the available vaccine. Lepto is basically a bacterial infection that is very tough to diagnose because it shares so many symptoms with many other illnesses (vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, fever, loss-of-appetite, etc.). Lepto is commonly successfully treated with the use of antibiotics like penicillin, tetracycline and erythromycin. It is a fact that a Lepto vaccine is only effective for about 6 months to 9 months after innoculation. Therefore, if one was concerned about infection of this illness, a dog would need to be vaccinated twice annually to be fully innoculated against only those few strains of Lepto for which there is avaccine.

Here is a source for more info on this illness:   http://www.canismajor.com/dog/lepto.html



WORK IN PROGRESS - this webpage still under construction!!







































FACT: Vets are educated at Vet Schools toward a vaccine protocol promoted by the drug companies who sell the vaccines.


FACT: There is only one (1) study available on long-term impact of vaccines on dogs and cats. This study was done by the Colorado State University and results can be found here: http://www.calmanimalcare.com/vaccine.htm



Note: Their study was prompted by some anomalies found in cat vaccines: http://www.cvmbs.colostate.edu/Insight/2004/fall2004/cats.htm


FACT: Colorado State University found that our pets are being seriously over-vaccinated by the current protocol most Vets use and this has been directly linked with many various health issues.


I've had MANY - MANY - dogs and cats who've had minor to serious negative health reactions that directly link to vaccination. Perhaps the most common reaction is allergic intolerance to the Rabies vaccine. These symptoms are often swelling of the glands in various places on the head and swelling of the third eyelid. Symptoms that can happen, but I haven't seen in my Berners, are:  DEATH, contraction of the disease for which they'd been vaccinated, hair loss, various infections, etc. Perhaps the second most common reaction I've seen is the acquisition of full-blown Parvo-Virus via the vaccine in young puppies.


FACT: When you give your dog a vaccine, you are actually injecting that very disease into your dog. If the vaccine you choose to give has more than one vaccine in it (and the most common vaccine today is a '7-way'), then that vaccine is power-packed with ALL SEVEN DISEASES. Yes, this means you're injected small portions of those seven diseases into your dog's body at one time.


FACT: Vaccines negatively impact the immune system by disabling it. The THEORY is the a small amount of the actual disease will promote an immune response, which then establishes a resistance to the disease.

I've lost count of the many dogs I've lived with whose health was negatively, permanently impacted from vaccination.


Moreover, people give vaccines to their dogs every year - never first checking to see if their dog's immune system needed the jolt.


SOLUTION: If you must vaccinate your dog, then before you vaccinate PLEASE GET A TITRE to test and see if your dog's immune system really needs another vaccine.


A titre is acquired through a simple blood draw that tests for present antibodies. This way, you can tell if your dog really needs another vaccine - or not.






Important Notes from your dog’s breeder


Without a doubt, vaccinations are a vital part of helping to protect and provide for your new puppy. Therefore, your puppy has had its first series of vaccinations at age eight (8) weeks. Vaccine used was ProGuard 5, as recommended by Colorado State University. This is a 5-way vaccine against: parvovirus, adenovirus 1 & 2, parainfluenza, distemper.


Based on the findings of a very valuable recent study done by Colorado State University (see following), I recommend the vaccination protocol listed below (by CSU) for your puppy. Their study is the only known, in-depth study of this topic of vaccinations in small animals. I have historically been a fan of minimal vaccinations prior to this, and I support their findings because they fully agree with my experiences in animals over the course of my lifetime. I hope my information here encourages you to get better educated on the topic matter.


Note: Many Vets make a high $$ income from routine vaccines of small Pet animals. In addition to their routine high charge for an office visit (well puppy check-up), they also charge about 10 times (or more) of what the vaccine and needle (supplies) actually cost them to purchase. Although I personally value most Vets, I also know they’re in the business to make a profit and I keep this in mind when considering office visits and procedures to be done on my animals.


It is critical that vaccines used be of top quality and also well-stored until use. The integrity of vaccines can easily be compromised by insufficient refrigeration / temperature regulation. Be sure that your Veterinary professional uses careful storage procedures for vaccines prior to use. If your Vet uses a vaccine on your animal that has not been carefully refrigerated, the vaccine you are paying top dollar for may not be very effective in protecting your dog from those diseases. The time to learn about the integrity of the vaccine should not be after you have a sick animal.


The two (2) vaccines not included in a typical 5-Way vaccination are: Leptospirosis and Coronavirus. I will address these.


Lepto: Importantly, Bernese Mountain Dogs have been known to have adverse reactions to the vaccines for Leptospirosis (Lepto), which is a usual part of a 6-way or 7-way vaccine (which we do NOT recommend for your puppy). The specific allergen is thought to be the carrier used in creating this vaccine. There are several versions of Leptospirosis, none of which are commonly fatal (but can be) and none of which are all covered in one (1) vaccine. Lepto is basically a bacterial infection that is very tough to diagnose because it shares symptoms with many other illnesses (vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, fever, loss-of-appetite, etc). Lepto is commonly treated successfully with the use of antibiotics like penicillin, tetracycline, and erythromycin. The fact is that Lepto vaccines are only effective for between six (6) months to (8) months after inoculation. Therefore, if one was concerned about infection of this illness, a dog would need to be vaccinated twice annually with the different types of Lepto vaccines to be fully inoculated. Again, this illness is not very common in today’s society, and its tough to fully inoculate against anyway. So we do not recommend inoculation. Here is a source for more info on this illness:   http://www.canismajor.com/dog/lepto.html


Coronavirus: Besides leaving out the Lepto vaccine, we also recommend leaving out the Coronavirus vaccine. This particular disease is also uncommon in today’s society, is rarely fatal and has no documented long-term negative effects. Oftentimes, Vets may misdiagnose a dog citing this disease, because this particular disease is incredibly tough to accurately diagnose. Vomiting and diarrhea are the common symptoms (and these fade within a week or so), which are also symptoms very common to other illnesses. I’ve known Vets who will use the fact that a dog is vomiting w/diarrhea to urge a pet owner to vaccinate for Coronavirus, when the fact was the dog had an entirely different illness (not to mention that when a disease is present is not the appropriate time to vaccinate against it). Here is a source for more info on this illness: http://www.ivis.org/advances/Infect_Dis_Carmichael/pratelli/chapter_frm.asp


Over-vaccination in small animals can result in serious issues like, among others, auto-immune disorder, cysts and other growths (some cancer, some not) and even the animal actually acquiring the disease(s) for which the vaccine was given. For instance, Fort Dodge (a manufacturer of vaccines for small animals and supplier to many Vets) has vaccines which were documented to have actually given the full-blown Parvovirus disease to puppies who were vaccinated with their product. At best, over-vaccination depresses a dog’s natural immune system, making the animal more susceptible to diseases and illnesses.


I offer you these notes and hope you will accept the vaccination protocol findings of Colorado State University as the protocol to employ for the benefit of your dog.


Colorado State University's
Small Animal Vaccination Protocol
Veterinary Teaching Hospital

In the past there have been many different vaccination recommendations for dogs and cats from veterinarians across the United States based on the best available information. In light of new information, the Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital is offering its clients the following vaccination program. This program is designed as the routine immunization program for Colorado State University's clients' dogs and cats living in Larimer County, Colorado, USA in conjunction with a complete physical examination and health evaluation. This program is modified for any patient with specific risk factors.

Not all available small animal vaccines may be suitable for our program. Infectious disease risk may vary and our routine vaccination program may not be suitable for all localities. Anyone using our routine vaccination program is encouraged to follow the guidelines that are its basis and use the program at their own risk.

For pet owners, your local veterinarian is your best resource to develop a vaccination program tailored for your pet. The health status and infectious disease risks of your pet should be considered in the selection of a vaccination program.

Our adoption of this routine vaccination program is based on the lack of scientific evidence to support the current practice of annual vaccination and increasing documentation showing that over-vaccinating has been associated with harmful side effects. Of particular note in this regard has been the association of autoimmune hemolytic anemia with vaccination in dogs and vaccine-associated sarcomas in cats -- both of which are often fatal. With boosters (except for rabies vaccine), the annual revaccination recommendation on the vaccine label is just that -- a recommendation without the backing of long term duration of immunity studies, and is not a legal requirement. Rabies vaccine is the only commonly used vaccine that requires that duration of immunity studies be carried out before licensure in the United States. Even with rabies vaccines, the label may be misleading in that a three year duration of immunity product may also be labeled and sold as a one year duration of immunity product.

Based on the concern that annual vaccination of small animals for many, but not all, infectious agents is probably no longer scientifcally justified, and our desire to avoid vaccine-associated adverse events, we are recommending the described routine immunization program to our small animal clients.

This Program recommends the standard three shot series for puppies (parvovirus, adenovirus 2, parainfluenza, distemper) and kittens (panleukopenia, rhinotracheitis, calicivirus) to include rabies after 8 weeks of age for cats (Canary Pox Rabies only) and 16 weeks of age for dogs. Following the initial puppy and kitten immunization series, cats and dogs will be boostered one year later and then every three years thereafter for all the above diseases except for rabies in cats which receive the new safer canary pox rabies vaccine that requires annual boosters. Similar small animal vaccination programs have been recently adopted by other university teaching hospitals and the American Association of Feline Practitioners.

Other available small animal vaccines, which may need more frequent administration, i.e., intranasal parainfluenza, Bordetella, feline leukemia, Lyme, etc., may be recommended for CSU client animals on an "at risk" basis but are not a part of the routine Colorado State University protocol for small animals. Recent studies clearly indicate that not all vaccines perform equally and some vaccine products may not be suitable for such a program.




Progard ®-5 (Intervet)

Modified live canine distemper, adenovirus type 2, parainfluenza, parvovirus vaccine

Progard ® KC (Intervet)

Canine parainfluenza, Bordetella bronchiseptica (intranasal)


Protex ® -3 (Intervet, Inc.)

Modified live virus feline rhinotracheitis, calici, panleukopenia

Trivalent (Heska)

Modified live rhinotracheitis, calici, panleukopenia (intranasal)

Fel-O-Vax Lv-K ® (Fort Dodge)

Killed FeLV vaccine


Imrab® 3 (Rhone Merieux) (Dog)

Killed rabies vaccine - three year duration of immunity

Purvax (Cat)

A new canarypox vector rabies vaccine from Merial with a one year duration of immunity replaces Imrab®3 in cats.


  • Intranasal Bordetella/Parainfluenza

To be used just prior to possible exposure to kennel cough carriers, i.e., shows, field trials, etc. May be repeated up to six times per year.

  • Feline Leukemia Vaccine

To be used ONLY IN HIGH RISK cats. Best protection: Two vaccines prior to 12 weeks of age, since younger cats are most susceptible to FeLV. One booster at one year of age.





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